FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma (Debut Author)

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

From Goodreads

FORBIDDEN is not a novel for everyone. It deals with several hard-hitting issues and features one of the biggest taboos in society. There is extreme neglect as a mother slowly withdraws from her family, leaving her eldest children, Lochan and Maya, to act as parents to their younger siblings. The novel centers on Lochan and Maya’s relationship as it changes and evolves, going from siblings and best friends to two people hopelessly in love. This book is too too and features a squick level that will keep many readers away. Heck, it would have kept me away if I hadn’t seen The Bookish Brunette, a blogger I adore and trust, post a raving review and highlight why everyone should read FORBIDDEN despite the topics explored. I don’t think my review will be anywhere near as stunning as hers, so check it out.

While FORBIDDEN explores many hard, brutal topics, the most harrowing moment deals with none of these issues. It’s not something I ever expected to see in this novel, and I won’t spoil it for you here, but you’ll know it when you see it. Perhaps of all, this moment is what stayed with me long after the last page was turned. Despite the extreme topics, I would absolutely read another novel by Suzuma in a heartbeat. She has a way of combining words and characters in a raw, gripping fashion. Her writing is so sharp and intense that it is impossible not to be invested in Lochan and Maya’s lives and root for them despite the fact that they’re siblings. They know their relationship is fundamentally wrong, but when they try to avoid their feelings, they are destructive and accidentally inflict severe harm upon themselves.

Lochan and Maya have never had a proper childhood. Their father skipped out and found a new family when they were about 10/11 years old. Their mother is an alcoholic who spends her paychecks on clothing for herself and presents for her younger boyfriend, hoping to regain her youth and find a way out of her family. She is the most destructive element, the catalyst of so many things. When she’s in their lives, chaos ensues. She comes home less frequently as the novel progresses, until she’s never home at all and Lochan has to go to her boyfriend’s house to beg her for money to pay the bills. Lochan and Maya are left to be parents to their younger siblings; the youngest is only five years old.

Their family life has an especially devastating effect on Lochan. He is painfully shy and has extreme social anxiety. He can’t deal with other people. In school, he’s called a freak. He can’t even form words if a teacher calls on him in class, and will sometimes have massive panic attacks. He has no friends and can only talk to his family members. Even then, he can, at times, be stumbling or withdrawn. The only person he really trusts to “see” him is Maya, and even that can be a struggle. As for Maya, no one will ever live up to the perfection of her brother. He’s her best friend, the person she loves most in the world, though she doesn’t realize just how much until after going out with a boy she thought she liked.

FORBIDDEN is slow-moving, forming relationships in a way that feels natural and building up the reader’s level of tolerance so they understand why things develop the way they do. The novel was originally published in the UK, which I wondered about upon seeing several character names I wasn’t familiar with, names like Lochan and Walla and Tiffin. They reminded me of a time when names such as Phillipa and Hermione were new to me. I always love seeing what names are popular in other countries. I also like the fact that the US publisher, Simon Pulse, kept in a lot of British slang instead of revising it for an overseas audience. I may not have known a word 100% of the time, but could gather its general meaning from the surrounding contest clues.

In the end, only you can decide whether or not this is a novel you’ll be able to read. I didn’t think I ever would, but found myself immersed in Lochan and Maya’s plight. The characters stick with me even now, days after finishing the novel.


This cover uses the same stock as the UK version of THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES by Carrie Ryan. I have to admit that I prefer the way it's used in Ryan's book the first. At the same time, I love the way the cover is RED. For passion, for love, for betrayal, for blood. There are so many connotations with the color red that suit this novel. I also love the way the heart is sharp and prickly like a thorn. The small, delicate cursive of the typography goes against the grittiness of that heart and bold red, saying that there's also something delicate about this novel.

[FORBIDDEN launches May 28, 2011 at bookstores everyone. E-ARC courtesty of Simon and Schuster]

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

This entry is part of Logan E. Turner and The Unread Reader's All Male Review Challenge (2011 Edition). See how I've done so far here.]


  1. Yay!!! I'm so glad you liked it! I find myself randomly thinking about it out of the blue too! It's just one of those books!

    I love and adore you darling!!!

  2. I'm glad you liked this book !It's definitely one of my favorites books now and I'm convinced I'll re-read it soon ! I look forward to read other books by Tabitha !!

  3. Wow... I'm still not sure about this one, but it seems to be getting positive reviews. I just can't help thinking about the book Push, which also dealt with taboo subjects. That book has haunted me (in a bad way) for years. I'm not sure if I would buy this one. I don't see my students being very open to it. Maybe an ebook or a free copy down the line.

  4. I read this and absolutely became engrossed in this tale of Forbidden love. At first I raged against then but Suzuma wins you over to their plight by creating such strong characters.

    Bravo on this review and yes it is a topic that will wreak havoc for years to come: good or bad it was unforgettable.

  5. The synopsis along had me captivated. I enjoyed your review, it was fresh and honest. I will be buying this book in the near future. Thanks for the review.

  6. @BookishBrunette: I totally did. Especially, you know, THAT PART! OMG. It still makes my brain blow up! And I love and adore *you!*

    @Elodie: I look forward to other books as well. Her writing had me so engrossed! I think it's definitely one of my favorites of the year. Who would have thought?

    @Flashlight Reader: I never read PUSH (or saw the movie...unless you count that sci-fi movie PUSH, lol) Do you have GalleyGrab? That's how I got a copy to read! I was the same way, I thought, "No thanks," and then Bookish Brunette and someone on GoodReads had such positive things to say. What the heck, why not? Wow, omg...!

    @Aisle B: You're right, Suzuma does win you over! At first, it's like peeking through your fingers at a train wreck and saying, "Stop, stop!" but slowly going, "Okay, I see why this had to happen..." It WAS absolutely unforgettable. People will be talking about this one for a long time.

    @Lena: You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It's terrifying, yet beautiful!

  7. I read this a week ago. I still get sad when I think about Lochie and Maya and the kids. It's definitely not the type of book I'd read. I didn't look at the summary when I started reading it so I was really surprised by how it turned out.

  8. I love when you a read a book, put it down, and can't get it out of your head. The most recent book to do that for me was Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (although in a totally different way than this book I'm sure). My TBR mental list is getting way out of control, but I'm going to have to add this one as well. : ) Great review!

  9. @Chel: I was really sad, too! It's not my normal read either, but omg, so good!!

    @Semisweet: Oh, I have JELLICOE ROAD out from the library right now! Can't wait to dive in! I hear so many amazing things about it... I'm so glad you enjoyed the review!

  10. Lovely review. I'm conflicted about this book. I have a copy, but I'm not sure if it's what I want to read right now. Both because of the taboo subject and also because it seems so sad and traumatic. At least it sounds like the author handled the book in a sensitive manner.

  11. I have my copy from galley grab. I want to read it really badly, but its quite a long book. (400+ pages). It sounds so awesome though!

    It sounds to me to be a little like The Flowers in the Attic, did it compare or is it completely different?

    Also, curious how it fits into the All Male Review Challenge. Isn't it only have narrated by the brother, the other half the sis?

  12. great review. I struggled with it but was enthralled at the same time.

  13. Haven't read this one yet, but keep seeing it. I find that I have a bit of a horrified fascination directed at this one. But, your review definitely makes me want to read it soon!

  14. This was the most powerful book I'd read. So glad you liked it.
    But, um, Tabitha Suzuma is not a debut author. She has written several YA books (From Where I Stand, A Note of Madness etc). Forbidden is only her latest published work.

  15. @Small Review: It is dealt with in a sensitive way, but it is a very somber book. You'll have to be in that state of mind to read it, I think. This might not be a good time for you to pick it up!

    @Gina: Yes, it's half-narrated, but the rules state that a male narrator counts. Bookish Brunette entered it as well. They haven't said I couldn't. I did the same thing with THE THRONE OF FIRE, which has a male and female POV between chapters. I think it's okay to do! :) It is a long read, but the book goes really fast, especially once you get involved. I think the circumstances in this are very different from the ones in FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, though the subject matter reminded me as well!

    @Fiction State of Mind: You summed it up perfectly: Reading was a struggle, but it was IMPOSSIBLE to put down!

    @Ashley: I think a lot of people will be horribly fascinated and want to pick this up. The topic is definitely lurid!

    @Bee: I know she has other books, but I was pretty sure that FORBIDDEN was her US debut? I looked it up online and checked to see if other people were entering it in the challenge before I entered it. I'll send a tweet to Kristi when she returns from BEA to see if it counts and withdraw it if it doesn't. Thanks for noticing! And I agree, this was an INCREDIBLY powerful book!


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